This week we’ll continue our discussion of Charlotte Mason habits by
looking at moral habits. Moral habits are commonly thought of as character traits. But if you think about it, character is formed by habits. “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character.” Here are the habits Charlotte mentioned that fall neatly into the category of Moral Habits.
- Integrity (as shown in your Priorities, Finishing tasks, your Use of Time, and how you treat Borrowed Property)
- Personal Initiative
- Reverence (respect for other people and property)
- Self-Control (keeping back the expression of our passions and emotions)
- Sweet, Even Temper
- Usefulness (offering valuable or productive service to others)
This list contains the other two of Charlotte’s Top Three — the habits she wrote about most. We talked about Attention last time, one of the Top Three. The other two are Obedience and Truthfulness.
(May I insert a note of encouragement here? If you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of fifty-plus habits, you might consider focusing on only the Top Three for now: obedience, truthfulness, and attention. How much smoother will your life at home be with obedient, truthful, attentive children? Those three would make a great place to start!)
Here are some practical suggestions from Charlotte’s writings to help us cultivate the habits of obedience and truthfulness in our children.
- Expect obedience. And she went so far as to say “prompt, cheerful, lasting obedience” — every time. I love this quote: “Tardy, unwilling, occasional obedience is hardly worth the having.”
- Never give a command that you don’t intend to see fully carried out.
- Don’t pester your child with excessive or continual commands.
- When possible, plan ahead and give your child advance notice for transition times. (For example, “In five minutes it will be time to clean up the toys. Please finish up your game.”)
- Require exact facts without omission or exaggeration.
- Teach your child to avoid qualifying his statements with “I think” or “perhaps.” Be sure before you speak!
- Don’t use excessive language for common situations. (For example, “That was such an awesome sandwich!”)
- If your child has a hard time distinguishing between imaginary and reality, give him daily lessons in truthful reporting. Send him to the window to tell you what he sees — exactly and with no omissions or exaggerations. Give him a message to deliver to your husband, and send him off with a piece of paper and a pencil so your husband can write the message as it was spoken. You can then check the message to see if it was delivered truthfully.
One last tip about cultivating moral habits. These habits, especially, can be greatly reinforced and encouraged with living books or examples. Tell your child the story of a famous person who exhibited truthfulness, like George Washington and the cherry tree. Introduce him to a person you know who exemplifies personal initiative. Read a biography about a person who was careful with borrowed property, like Abraham Lincoln’s walking miles to borrow and return books. Such living ideas will go far in motivating your child to develop moral habits.